PoliticsNation, Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
January 21, 2014
Guests: Donald McEachin; Gordon Johnson, Goldie Taylor, Richard Wolffe, Antoinette Tuff
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed. And thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, storm in New Jersey. Today, a new investigation just as
Governor Chris Christie is sworn in for his second term. State lawmakers
announced today there will be a single super committee to investigate the
sprawling questions about Governor Christie and his administration. It
will include members from the Senate and assembly and have full subpoena
The announcement answers a key concern that separate investigations could
have slowed down the hunt for answers. Today was supposed to be a day of
celebration, the start of Governor Christie`s second term after his
triumphant reelection victory, perhaps setting the stage for a presidential
run. But all that has been clouded by the growing investigations.
We don`t know if the latest allegations involving Sandy aid are true, or
whether the governor had more knowledge of the lane closings than he
claimed. But these questions cut to the core of his supposed strengths.
Right now, his administration is facing multiple investigations from the
New Jersey legislature, from the port authority`s inspector general, and
most ominously, from the U.S. attorney`s office.
This evening a snowstorm forced the cancellation of the governor`s
inauguration party. The governor didn`t mention the controversies in his
speech today, but they hung thick in the air.
Joining me now is Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Steve Kornacki, who has
done such a great job reporting on this story.
Thank you for being here.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Sure.
ASSEMBLYMAN GORDON JOHNSON (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Reverend Al, for
SHARPTON: Assemblyman, what is merging the legislators` investigation?
What is that report?
JOHNSON: I believe this will allow us to have a more efficient and
effective investigation. It will also -- it`s more -- it saves us money
too where we`re going to maintain our same special counsel that we`ve
retained in the assembly. And with Assemblyman John Wisniewski as chair
and Senator Weinberg as the also co-chair in this, I believe we have the
proper leadership in place and the proper resources to conduct a thorough
investigation into this.
SHARPTON: So they combine it so there is no longer the problem of if the
Senate or the assembly are bumping into each other by having one super
JOHNSON: That`s correct. And initially we had the two committees I
believe. That`s part of our process in New Jersey. And after some
thorough discussions at the leadership level within the state legislature,
it was determined that it should be a combined committee, and that`s what
came out today in a public statement.
SHARPTON: Steve, that is part of what people were very concerned about,
whether you would have a subpoena from the Senate and the same person
getting the subpoena from the assembly. And this clears all that up and
takes that off the table.
But you broke a blockbuster story with the mayor of Hoboken around sandy
aid. And the governor, as I said, didn`t mention the investigations today.
But he did talk about hurricane Sandy, which is at the heart of the Hoboken
allegation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We have survived the worst natural
disaster in our state`s history, and we have worked together to restore,
renew, and rebuild the state that we love.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Your reaction as to clearly not referring in any way to the
investigation. But kind of raising up what they survived in Sandy where
now it`s been questioned whether or not he was playing some kind of trying
to pressure people to do certain things to get the aid in certain cities
KORNACKI: The aid in certain cities like Hoboken. And I think that`s why
Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, that`s why her allegation has attracted
so much attention. Because it really cuts to the heart of what Chris
Christie was supposed to represent, sort of his signature moment as
governor, his signature moment on the national stage, was days before a
presidential election, putting politics supposedly, putting partisan and
presidential politics aside, doing what he said was right for his state and
standing with Barack Obama and reiterating that same thing over and over
again in the wake of Sandy. This is not a democrat thing, this is not a
Republican thing, this is not a political thing. This is about rebuilding
New Jersey. This is about helping the people that are affected by that.
And the image that was created by all of that has been so powerful in terms
of what people think of Christie both in New Jersey. It`s why he won so
convincingly, and nationally. It`s a big reason why there is so much
presidential buzz nationally.
So to have the mayor of a major city, a city that was 80 percent underwater
during Sandy, a city that is mostly under water, who is out there saying
that my city has not gotten the resources that it needs to prevent this
from happening again if there was another Sandy tomorrow, this would happen
to my city again, to have her out there saying that`s the condition of
Hoboken right now. And it`s in that condition because the governor said
the governor`s people said you`ll only get more money if you approve a
development project. It really it`s an accusation and an allegation that
just threatens the core of his identity and his popularity.
SHARPTON: I want to ask you about a new development in Hoboken, since you
broke this story. It occurred after you broke the story. Mayor Dawn
Zimmer told the star-ledger that U.S. attorneys met with other people in
Hoboken on Monday. Quote, "members of the office whom she met with on
Sunday to discuss her claims interviewed numerous people in the city. They
were talking to people in Hoboken today, she said."
Now, the mayor didn`t elaborate. She didn`t explain who they were talking
to. I mean, what do you make of this report?
KORNACKI: Well, I mean, there are other people in the city who might have
had, first of all, in her administration who might have -- she might have
at the time of the conversation with Lieutenant Governor Guadagno who she
might have talked to and given a version of the story to so you could talk
to them to see if what she told them lines up at all. This is an issue,
When we talk about this development project in Hoboken who is the
Rockefeller group was trying to develop these three blocks of land in the
north end of Hoboken. This was a major issue in the city. This was a very
contentious issue in the city. This is something there were a lot of
forces politically and economically within the city of Hoboken kind of on
both sides of this thing. So I think there is -- there would be reason if
you`re the U.S. attorney`s office and you`re looking into this, there would
be reason to go around and talk to some of the people about where they
hearing anything from the state? Were they in communication? Did they
hear anything from the mayor about her communications with the state?
SHARPTON: Yes, because this really cuts at the heart of the governor`s
But Assemblyman, let me ask you. The assemblyman that is chairing the
investigation was asked whether he pursued the new allegations from the
Hoboken mayor and here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, she raises serious allegations. There is a
lot of facts swirling about in terms of who said what when. The first
order of business for this committee is to follow the information that we
had to date where we had somebody in the governor`s office abusing power.
And we see that attempt to cover up that abuse of power. We`ll follow that
trail wherever it leaves. We`re not going to switch gears and start
following another investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So they`re not going to switch gears. But they`ll follow
wherever it leads, Assemblyman Johnson. What does that mean?
JOHNSON: I would think that if John Wisniewski and Senator Weinberg and
our legal counsel that we have hired, if they feel that this latest
allegation is within the scope of our charge and this super committee,
then, we`ll go that way.
But initially, as John Wisniewski said before, we`re looking into abuse of
power here. We`re looking into people being punished because the mayor
didn`t do what someone wanted him to do, and therefore the people they
represent were punished. And the bridge was more than -- people at Fort
Lee, but people who try to cross the bridge and the folks in surrounding
And another common thread in this here is the redevelopment. Fort Lee has
a major redevelopment project that is occurring adjacent to the George
Washington Bridge. And of course the allegation in Hoboken about their
redevelopment project down there. So there is some common threads here.
But if the leadership and legal counsel feel that this is the scope of the
committee, then we should go in that direction also. But we will see where
this takes us.
SHARPTON: Let me come back to you, Steve. You talked about the
investigation committee in the legislature. But the one that is also very
serious is the U.S. attorney.
Paul Fishman is the U.S. attorney in that area. What do you know about
him? What kind of prosecutor is he? And is he the kind of guy that is --
well, what kind of prosecutor?
KORNACKI: Yes. It`s interesting, because Chris Christie`s job before he
became governor is he was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey.
SHARPTON: Same office?
KORNACKI: Same office. And Paul Fishman is basically 180 degree opposite
of Chris Christie as U.S. attorney. Chris Christie, he loved the big high
profile public corruption case. Chris Christie clearly when he got into
the job was thinking about running for office. And there is no better way
to use that office to position yourself to run for public office than to
have this big takedowns of big names. So, his office was, you know, a
steady stream of big name prosecutions. Lots of leaks coming out of the
There was kind of an ironic moment at the end of the inauguration today.
Christie finishes his speech and had been walk downs the line of ex-
governors who were there. He gets to Jim McGreevey, and Jim McGreevey
gives him a hug. Jim McGreevey`s governorship, it was the three years had
lasted. Were investigations by Chris Christie that were leaking out, these
damning details about Jim McGreevey, about people around him. So it was
ironic at this moment in time to see Jim McGreevey cross paths with Chris
KORNACKI: But Paul Fishman, no. Paul Fishman`s reputation is definitely
not somebody who is running for office some day, has not shown much of an
appetite for the big high profile corruption case. And the expectation is
if this is something that all goes into his hands, if he ends up taking
over this entire investigation and maybe the legislative stuff shuts down,
nobody really expects you`re going to have leaks coming out of that office.
A very different office than when Chris Christie was there.
SHARPTON: All right. I`m going row to have to leave it there.
And Steve, you`ve done such a great job breaking this Hoboken story and
really brought us to where we are now in seeing wherever this goes.
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, thank you again for your time tonight.
JOHNSON: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton, for having me.
SHARPTON: And be sure to watch "Up with Steve Kornacki" weekends at 8:00
a.m. eastern time here on MSNBC.
Coming up, breaking news tonight. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell
and his wife are charged in a federal corruption case.
Plus, President Obama makes a personal and candid comment on race and the
right wing goes unhinged.
And a real-life hero joins me live in the studio. She is Antoinette Tuff,
a lady who persuaded a school shooting suspect to surrender. I can`t wait
to talk to her.
And wait until you see what happened when Lebron James paid a visit to the
Big show ahead. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: She is Wendy Davis, and she is running for governor of Texas.
And surprise, surprise, the right wing is after her big-time. Stay tuned
SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight, former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell
and his wife Maureen have been criminally charged for repeatedly asking a
local businessman to help them with personal debts.
For two years it`s alleged they illegally took gifts, vacations, and loans
from Johnny Williams Sr., the former CEO of star scientific, a company that
makes dietary supplements. In return, he would allegedly get help
marketing his product from McDonnell.
Just four years ago McDonnell burst on to the national political radar as
the governor of Virginia. That very same year, 2010, he was given the
honor of delivering the Republican response to the state of the union. He
was someone Republicans touted as their as a big part of their future.
Reportedly very close to becoming Mitt Romney`s running mate in 2012. But
it all came crashing down in a spectacular fashion.
Here is the indictment in the eastern district of Virginia, the defendants,
Robert McDonnell and Maureen McDonnell. Among the allegations, Maureen
McDonnell asked Williams to take her on a shopping trip to New York. He
spent nearly $20,000 buying her dresses. She asked for a $50,000 loan and
for $15,000 to help pay for remaining catering costs at their daughter`s
Williams also paid for golf outings for McDonnell and his family. They
enjoyed a private vacation at his multimillion-dollar vacation home, and
bought a Rolex watch for the governor. McDonnell says he deeply regrets
accepting gifts and loans but says he did nothing illegal.
It`s a total of 14 felony counts. The couple could face decades in prison
if convicted on these charges.
Joining me now is David McEachin, Virginia state senator from Richmond and
the leader of the Senate`s Democratic caucus, and "Washington Post" Dana
State Senator McEachin, thanks very much for being here. You`ve been
fighting for answers from the start. What is your reaction to the charges?
STATE SEN. DONALD MCEACHIN, D-VIRGINIA: Well, it`s a sad day for the
commonwealth, Reverend. And I think it underscores the need for us to get
serious about ethics reform in Virginia. But it`s going to be difficult,
because what we have to do is restore the faith of the people in their
government. And frankly, from what I`ve read in the indictment, if true,
and let me say I`m a lawyer. So I have to say that the governor, the
former governor is entitled to the assumption of innocence. But if what is
in the indictment is true it`s already a violation of Virginia law to do
those things without reporting them. It`s tough to write a law that fixes
the problems that the former governor may have caused us.
SHARPTON: Now the governor released a statement saying, quote, "I deeply
regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have
been repaid with interest. And have I apologized for my poor judgment for
which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I
did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believe is his
personal generosity and friendship. I never promised and Mr. Williams and
his company never received any government benefit of any kind from me or my
Dana, this guy was in the elite of the Republican Party. Give me a -- give
me your kind of graph on the fall from where he was to where he are today.
DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, supposedly,
the former governor is going to come out at 7:00 and tell us a little more
in his own words. I think he seemed to, as is often in these cases, seemed
to be impressed with his own invincibility. You know, he believed his own
press. And that`s often what happens in these cases. You feel you can get
away with anything. You know, a little $15,000 for the daughter`s wedding
here, a Rolex watch here. None of it amounted to anything huge in his
mind, one presumes. And it is true that in the commonwealth, you can
receive any sort of a gift you want as long as you disclose it. That`s
what the senator is talking about in terms of the changes that need to be
made in Virginia law.
But the real problem is here is what is being alleged is he did do things
for this company. The wife did do a testimonial for this company. They
raised the stature of this company using the governor`s office. And, you
know, ethics law aside, that is illegal.
SHARPTON: Senator McEachin, I`m trying to understand. In Virginia, you`re
allowed to get certain gifts, but you`re not allowed to do favors for them
that would be using the state`s funds or the power of the state?
MCEACHIN: Absolutely, Reverend. You cannot pay to play in Virginia or any
state in the nation. But what is important here is the governor, if he did
these things that he is alleged to have done, did not report these things.
And that`s the hallmark of Virginia transparency. That`s the hallmark of
Virginia government is that we report the things that happen to us. We
report our financial condition. We report gifts and things like that.
So, you know, we`re going to get serious ethics reform done. There are
bills out there. They still have holes in them that have to be fixed. But
I firmly leave that I`m going to get this done on a bipartisan basis.
Governor McAuliffe has asked us to do this. In a very nice way he has
demand that of us. And I think the legislature is prepared to respond
SHARPTON: Now Dana, there are those that say but the governor, former
governor now did not do anything for this guy. And that he does have a
strong defense because he did not deliver anything for the guy.
MILBANK: Well, I think what he is saying is he didn`t do it in one of his
official acts, such as actually giving that company a grant or hiring
somebody. But, of course, there are other ways in which you can help this
guy out by appearing with him, by basically lending the imprimatur of this
governor`s office to these products. So, that is where he is vulnerable.
And of course, there are other charges involved here of obstructing the
investigation and lying after it was under way. Now, if you add all of
these up together, he and his wife could be put away for many, many years.
But the far likelier outcome is it will be some narrower subset of these
SHARPTON: Now senator McEachin, you gave a powerful response today. I`m
quoting you. "I thought the apology was heartfelt and it was appropriate.
As someone who believes in redemption, I hope the people of Virginia will
join me and others in forgiving him." Elaborate on that.
MCEACHIN: Well, actually, that was a few days ago when the governor gave
his final state of the commonwealth address. He apologized to the people
of Virginia and to the legislature for the pain that he has caused. I like
you, Reverend, have my masters of divinity, although I am a lawyer, not a
minister. And I certainly believe in the power of redemption. I believe
he should be forgiven. Unfortunately, that doesn`t relieve him of the
responsibility of having to answer to these charges. But as far as I`m
concerned, I forgive him for his very human failings.
SHARPTON: All right, Virginia State Senator Donald McEachin and Dana
Milbank, thank you both for your time.
MILBANK: Thanks, reverend.
MCEACHIN: Thank you, reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, right wingers trot out one of their favorite
attacks on President Obama, that he is playing the race card. I`ll trump
their arguments tonight.
And the GOP`s new push to take down progressive hero Wendy Davis, they
won`t get away with it and it`s tonight`s got you.
SHARPTON: The right wing is just itching to take down democratic
gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis. Their latest excuse, this "Dallas
Morning News" report that said Davis, quote, "blurred some details in her
dramatic life story, a teen mother who later earned her way to Harvard."
It turns out Davis was 21 when she got divorced, not 19. And she -- as she
said in the past and her ex-husband helped her pay those Harvard bills.
That`s it. Some minor details in a still powerful life story, but the
right wing media is hyping it all up with attacks, trying to paint her as
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There is fraud and deceit woven
through her life story, which it has been discovered now has some issues.
It seems when you boil it all down that Wendy Davis would have ended up
being really poor and destitute were it not for a man. But that`s no
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The drudge report tweeted, Texas abortion heroine lied about
being a single teen mom. And a right wing columnist tweeted, the real
question, if you wear pink shoe, how fast can you run away from your
parental responsibilities? Those pink shoes were Wendy Davis`s trademark
during her 11th hour filibuster of a harsh Texas abortion law last summer.
And ever since she stood up in those shoes, the right wing has been
fiercely trying to tear her down.
Davis said there were details in her life story she should have been
clearer about, but she also says, quote, "the truth is that at age 19 I was
a teenage mother, living alone with my daughter in a trailer, struggling to
keep us afloat. I am proud of where I came from and I am proud of what I
have been able to achieve. Anyone who tries to say otherwise hasn`t walked
a day in my shoes" -- especially not these shoes. Did the right wing think
we wouldn`t notice that their tax strategy is really what`s behind their
latest on Senator Davis? Nice try, but we got you.
SHARPTON: The right wing spin machine is running on overdrive tonight.
Because President Obama had the nerve to talk about race. In a published
interview the president said, quote, "There is no doubt there is some folk
who just really dislike me because they don`t like the idea of a black
president. Now the flip side of it is that there are some black folks and
maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of a
doubt precisely because I`m a black president." Now, it seems like a
fairly obvious noncontroversial statement. But for the right-wingers, it
was a chance to go back to one of their favorite talking points. President
Obama is playing the race card.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Why at this point would the president use
that and seemingly play in the race excuse?
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS HOST: It just demeans this president when he offers
his race as an excuse for not doing better in the same position.
GLENN BECK, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: It is a strange like double standard
racism that I think keeps him elected.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Obama is living in this fantasy land
where he is the greatest president ever. And it`s just those bitter
clingers. Bitter clinger pro-life racist pigs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Ugly stuff. But we`ve seen it before. When in doubt, right-
wingers trot out their race card headlines. "The Wall Street Journal"
thinks the president has a race card. "The New York Post" says, there is
one for ObamaCare. Was the Obama administration playing a race card in
Alabama? The Weekly Standard wants to know. Did Obama ask Oprah to play
the race card? That`s a good question too. Apparently they think Michelle
Obama plays the race card. And of course Eric Holder has one too. Right-
wingers see a race card every time the president or his allies talk. But
the truth is they`re the ones who are dealing from the bottom of the deck.
Joining me now are Goldie Taylor and Richard Wolffe. Thank you both for
RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC COMMENTATOR: Thanks, Reverend.
GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: Goldie, why does the right go in such a panic when the president
talks about race?
TAYLOR: You know, it`s an itchy conversation. It`s an uncomfortable
conversation. I think for people on the right and for people on the left.
But to raise the spectrum of race at all for some on the right, you know,
really means to play the race card. And it`s unfortunate, because this
president has really fought and tried very hard to strike a meaningful
balance when he talks about those kinds of very sensitive issues. But the
fact is some on the right are very comfortable in this position.
I think Sarah Palin is literally playing a game of 52-card pickup here.
You know, any time some issue comes up, a national holiday like MLK Day
comes up, you know, she is fast to trot out and try to whip the president
over the head with the very notion that he is African-American and has
really fought very, very hard to be very sensitive about these issues, to
come to them with a balance for, you know, how, you know --
SHARPTON: But Richard, it`s not just Palin. I mean, Palin is Palin. I`m
talking about some of the established Republican leadership and
journalists. And this is the most noncontroversial.
SHARPTON: Balanced statement.
SHARPTON: And they made this the race card. I mean, I`ve been in many
meetings with the president, with other civil rights leaders, and he has
never encouraged anybody. In fact, in many ways, we would say things. And
when I said on "Morning Joe," he`d say things that he didn`t encourage and
in fact wouldn`t even go along with because he happens to really believe
everybody, maybe not judging things on race always as much as we did. They
destroyed what I said. So, I mean, is race any kind of way they want it.
He`s either got tensions with black leaders, or he is playing the race card
or both at the same time.
WOLFFE: Too black, too white. Remember that whole discussion?
SHARPTON: Never just right.
WOLFFE: So, I have been covering this from the start, from the get-go when
he first started running for president. And there are people who enjoy the
politics of race. Right? They find that speaking to the kind of sense of
victimization really helps their ratings in this case, or maybe it helps
them in their particular district. And that to me is much more interesting
than what these people are actually arguing. There is nothing more
preposterous or predictable than having these casts of characters say it`s
Their whole game is to shout "racist" louder than anyone else. But the
interesting thing is their audience actually feeds on this stuff. And this
is something quite real. Not what the president is actually saying. But
this idea that the country has slipped away from them, the culture has
slipped away from them, and the president kind of encapsulates that. It`s
certainly nothing in what the president says. But that sense of
victimization is very real. And that`s what they`re speaking to.
SHARPTON: Now, you know, Goldie, last night in prime time, FOX News gave a
platform to a right wing pastor who claims, I want you to hear this, who
claims that President Obama is laying the groundwork for the anti-Christ.
This is prime time. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT JEFFRESS, PASTOR, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH OF DALLAS: People will have
been conditioned long before the anti-Christ comes to accept governmental
overreach. And that`s what you`re seeing with President Obama. I`m not
saying President Obama is the anti-Christ. In fact, I`m sure he is not.
Because the anti-Christ is going to have higher poll numbers, according to
the bible, at least at the beginning. But I believe he is conditioning
people to accept governmental overreach which they will finally give into
when this final dictator comes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: He is conditioning people to take government overreach so when
the final dictator, the anti-Christ comes, who by the way will have higher
numbers. And he took the time to assure us President Obama wasn`t the
anti-Christ himself. This is on prime time TV last night.
TAYLOR: I guess he is assuring anyone who hasn`t read the books that John
wrote, assuring people who haven`t actually read revelations that it`s
balderdash and poppy dock. You know? And for FOX News -- to give license
and platform to give this kind of venue to someone who spews that kind of
hatred to hide their bigotry behind the leather of their bible, you know, I
think is unconscionable. You know, but the truth is, you know, as Richard
said, this really is about the politics of fear. And you see it, really no
matter the color. I was in a barbershop in South Central Los Angeles a
couple of years ago shooting a documentary where the barber there`s were
darned sure that Barack Obama wasn`t going to be black enough.
TAYLOR: And so it really doesn`t matter what this president does. No
matter what he says, no matter how fair the balance is that he strikes,
there are going to be people out there acting from a position of fear that
their values, that their moral race, what they hold through to be whatever
it is they call America is being challenged by this man because of the
color of his skin and because he happens to inhabit this White House. And
so yes, Mr. President, I will say it for you. There are people out there
who are judging you based on the color of your skin and on that and that
SHARPTON: Well, Richard, I think that one of the reasons I think it has to
be discussed is so many people are hearing the slogans and the headlines,
and not really hearing what is being said. And I think that it`s really --
it`s really crazy to say when you have the president say yes there is some,
and obviously there is some, that I have a problem with him as a black
president. But there is some that have no problem because he is a black
president. Saying on both sides and even with balance, race card.
WOLFFE: Right. We`re having this discussion the day after Martin Luther
WOLFFE: And I read all of those quotes from Republican officials saying
what a wonderful man Martin Luther King was. At the time, Martin Luther
King was much more radical in what he was saying in terms of challenging
this country. And their language was not oh, he is playing the race card.
It was much worse than that.
SHARPTON: They called him a communist. They called him everything --
WOLFFE: Un-American, everything else. I didn`t quite hear the anti-Christ
slogan, but I`m sure people were saying it at the time too. Now Martin
Luther King is a saint and a hero, and everything else. They want to
exclude all of the challenges that he made to this country. And when you
have this president come up with the blandest possible statement about
WOLFFE: He is apparently being racist. I don`t think they`re connecting
what they are thinking about in terms of Martin Luther King and his legacy
with the history they are living today.
SHARPTON: Well, all I can say is that when someone says to even mention
race is pulling the race card, you have to ask the accuser, what is your
problem with race that we can`t have an intelligent, balanced conversation
without you overreacting. It says more about the accuser than it does the
accused. Goldie Taylor, Richard Wolffe, thank you both for your time
WOLFFE: Thank you, Reverend.
TAYLOR: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, the hero who stopped a school shooting and saved
lives without firing a shot. My special guest Antoinette Tuff is ahead.
SHARPTON: It was a day that could have ended in tragedy. One Tuesday last
August, a man carrying an AK-47 walked into a Georgia Elementary School
with more than 800 children in the building. But in the front office he
ran into Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at the school. Antoinette convinced
him to surrender to the police. Here is part of her 911 call that inspired
the whole country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTOINETTE TUFF, GEORGIA ELEMENTARY SCHOOL BOOKKEEPER: I can let them know
that you have not tried to harm me or do anything with me or anything, if
you want to.
TUFF: But that doesn`t make any difference. You didn`t hit anybody.
SUSPECT: You don`t know that.
TUFF: OK. Let me ask you this, ma`am. He didn`t hit anybody. He just
shot outside the door. If I walk out there with him? If I walk out there
with him so they won`t shoot him or anything like that, he wants to give
himself up. Is that OK and they won`t shoot him?
911 OPERATOR: Yes, ma`am.
TUFF: He said, he just wants to go to the hospital.
911 OPERATOR: OK. Hold on one moment.
TUFF: She says, hold on and she is going to talk to the police officer,
and I`ll go out there with you.
TUFF: Well, don`t feel bad, baby, my husband just left me after 33 years.
Yes, you do. I mean, I`m sitting here with you and talking to you about
it. I got a son that is multiple disabled. We`re not going to hate you,
baby. It`s a good thing that you`re giving up. So we`re not going to hate
you. He say the gun may come back and say it`s stolen, but it`s not. He
knows the whole story about the gun and he`ll let you all know that.
911 OPERATOR: OK.
TUFF: OK. He is on the ground now with his hands behind the back. Tell
the officers don`t come in with any guns, don`t come in shooting anything,
so they can come on in, and I`ll buzz them in.
911 OPERATOR: OK.
TUFF: So hold on. Just sit right there and I`m going to buzz them in, OK?
So you`ll know when they`re coming, OK? So just stay there calm. Don`t
worry about it. I`m going to sit right here so they see you tried not to
harm me, OK? OK.
911 OPERATOR: OK.
TUFF: It`s going to be all right, sweetie. I just want you to know that I
love you, though, OK? And I`m proud of you. That`s a good thing that
you`ve just given up, and don`t worry about it. We all go through
something in life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: In her new book, Antoinette describes what was going through her
mind. She writes I was going through a time in my life when my words did
not seem to matter. Now suddenly, without the slightest warning, I was in
a situation where every word out of my mouth might be the difference
between living and dying. The smallest mix-up or mistranslation might
spell doom, not just for me, but for hundreds of souls.
Joining me now is Antoinette Tuff, the woman on that 911 call. Her new
book is "Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring True Story of How one Woman
Saved an Atlanta School Under Siege." Antoinette, thanks for being here.
Thank you so much.
TUFF: You`re so welcome. A pleasure to be here with you.
SHARPTON: We`ve all heard that amazing 911 tape. What was going through
TUFF: Oh my God. It was just, you know, what do you do next? You know,
you have somebody who is in front of you, and you have no idea which
direction to go in, because he has already informed you that he is unstable
in all of his ways. So what do you do next?
SHARPTON: And he is standing there with this gun, and he has told you he
is unstable. I mean, what gave you the mind to even try to talk to him?
TUFF: Well, first of all, I was terrified on inside. And so I am actually
sitting there, having a conversation with God. What do I do? You know,
how do I prepare -- how do I prepare myself for this moment. And so I am
actually sitting there, actually talking to God and asking him what to do.
SHARPTON: Now, I want to play you another part of your call. Just as the
police were coming in, let`s listen.
TUFF: OK, thanks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUFF: OK. He`s just got his phone. That`s all he`s got is his phone.
OFFICER: Do not move!
TUFF: It`s him. It`s just him. OK. It`s just him. Hello?
911 OFFICER: Yes?
TUFF: Let me tell you something, baby, I`ve never been so scared in all
the days of my life.
911 OFFICER: But you did great.
TUFF: Oh, Jesus.
911 OFFICER: You did great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Now, that`s actually when the police were coming in the room,
TUFF: Yes, yes.
SHARPTON: And you said you had never been so scared. But you didn`t sound
it. I mean, how did you stay calm?
TUFF: Well, I`m going to be honest with you. On the inside I was
terrified. So I thought I was screaming. And everybody kept saying to me
how calm I was. So I had to go back and listen to the 911 tape myself and
see who it was.
SHARPTON: So, you didn`t realize how calm you were talking until you heard
the tape played back?
TUFF: I went back and listen and OK, that got to be God, because I didn`t
even know I was that calm and what was I`m saying, because I didn`t even
recognize my own self.
SHARPTON: You look up. There is a man there with an AK-47. He is telling
you he is unstable. What made you just go into this other zone of trying
to talk him out of it? What made you do it? Can you explain what happened
TUFF: It was really compassion and love at that time. You know, you see a
young man here, and when he comes in, he is telling you that I`m not
playing, this is for real. And so even in the beginning when he came in,
first I thought it was joke. And then I realize, OK, once he spoke that
this is not a joke. So at that time, you know, I`m like OK, God, what do I
do? What do I say? This gentleman is not playing.
SHARPTON: Now, you said at one time that you thought about running. And
then you didn`t. What happened?
TUFF: Well, I wanted to run, but I remembered that there is an open
hallway. There are hundreds of children, adults, and parents in that
building. Not only that, but there is also me and the gunman. I knew that
if I ran at that moment, that he was going to come in and start shooting.
Remember, he was just shooting at the police. I knew he was going to start
SHARPTON: You talk about a lot of this in the book about you were going
through a hard time at that point. And you said your words you felt didn`t
mean anything. And then all of the sudden this moment comes. Tell us what
you were going through and what this moment meant, and you rose to the
TUFF: You see, I think God was preparing me for that purpose when I was
young. I had gone through a lot of trials and tribulations, just like we
all do. And, you know, sometimes you don`t realize what your purpose is in
life. And so then God thrusts you into something that you have no way of
getting out of. And now you have to face it. So, you know, I think that
with all that, God prepared me for that moment. I had just had a husband
who had left me after 33 years. I had been with since I was 13. And now
I`m sitting here now with a multiple disabled child, a daughter who is in
college, and now a husband. So what do you do? And he is gone.
SHARPTON: And then in the middle of all of these, as you say, trials and
tribulation, you`re standing there with this man who could end it all. And
somehow you found the strength to talk him back, not only for you, but for
those hundreds of kids that was in that school. And you don`t call
yourself a hero. Why?
TUFF: Well, I think that I was just God`s vessel. I think that I was
right there at the right time for God to use me. I was just like anybody
else, scared. But I think God gives us all a purpose in our life. And so,
we all have to make sure that we`re prepared for it. And that`s why I
wrote my book, just to be prepared for a purpose.
SHARPTON: Well, I certainly relate to that. The vessel and a purpose in
life. And I think it is something that a lot of people can relate to. The
new book is called "Prepared for a Purpose." Antoinette Tuff, thank you so
much for your time.
TUFF: You are so welcome, so welcome.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, the First Lady gets some special help for a video
aimed at our kids.
And fighting to correct an injustice 70 years after the fact. Stay with
SHARPTON: The NBA champion Miami Heat recently went to the White House,
and some of the all stars joined First Lady Michelle Obama to promote her
"Let`s Move" campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIK SPOELSTRA, MIAMI HEAT: Hi, everyone. I`m Erik Spoelstra of the Miami
Heat and a member of the NBA fit team. I`m here today at the White House
to find out why eating healthy can help you perform like a champion.
DWYANE WADE, MIAMI HEAT: I eat fruits and vegetables every day because it
gives me the energy I need to perform at the top of my game.
SPOELSTRA: Thanks, Dwyane. What about you, Ray?
RAY ALLEN, MIAMI HEAT: Drinking water is an important part of my pregame
routine so I can stay focused and refreshed.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Eating right foods can help make you a better athlete.
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: Oh!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Oh, let`s see this again? What a dunk from the First Lady. And
what about this fact. For the first time in decades, obesity rates are
falling in many states. Fact is the First Lady`s "Let`s Move" campaign is
a slam-dunk too.
SHARPTON: Seventy years ago, this nation executed a 14-year-old boy.
Today there is a valiant effort to clear his name. George Steny was
convicted of murdering two white girls back in 1944. No physical evidence
ever connected him to the crime. There were no eyewitnesses. Police
claimed he confessed, but George denied that at the trial, and police made
no written record of his confession. The trial itself lasted just a couple
After deliberating only ten minutes, the all-white jury found George Steny
guilty of first-degree murder at the age of 14. He was the youngest person
executed in America in the last 100 years. In South Carolina today, court
held a hearing on the case of George Steny as part of a new path to clear
George`s name. And to get a pardon 70 years after his death. Throughout
the Jim Crow era, untold thousands of black Americans faced similar
injustices, but it`s never too late to right a wrong. And for George
Steny, and all of us, this wrong must be made right.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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